Mark Halliday, Head of Airwave APAC, gives us the top news, views and insights from Mobile World Congress 2016 happening in Barcelona
We kicked off the day with a few meetings with vendors, who the global team are very excited about. Unfortunately, these vendors don’t have much of a presence in APAC yet. No surprise that their main USPs were around data, personalized creative and mobile-first formats. It’s exciting to speak to innovators who are at the early stages of their business, but have not taken the plunge into Asia yet. The great thing about ad tech is that it can make the world a smaller place, and these solutions can still be utilized in our region despite having a UK or US headquarters.
I also spent a few hours with Seamus Byrne and colleagues from Omnicom Media Group agencies around the world. Seamus is the Editor for CNet in Australia and Asia and gave us a “best of MWC” tour, which was absolutely fascinating. CNet have the benefit of walking around the exhibitors one day before the public, so they are in a unique position to curate the great and the good of the event – from huge global companies (including some of our clients), as well as smaller tech startups.
It’s fair to say the main trends are connectivity, 360 degree video and virtual reality. These three areas came up constantly throughout the tour.
Visa – Connected Car
Visa are rightly associated with mobile and contactless payments, but I wasn’t expecting to see a demo of a Visa connected car. It makes a lot of sense when you consider the potential of automated parking charges, directing drivers to available parking spaces, and even paying for your McDonald’s drive thru.
Qualcomm – Modular System for Connectivity
We also saw a connected car at the Qualcomm stand. Qualcomm power a lot of components and software that appear in household name brands. There is normally a 4 year lag between technology being developed and then becoming widely available and common-place in cars. This is due to the huge timelines in car design and manufacturing. Therefore, Qualcomm have developed a modular system, housed in the glove box, which allows car owners to upgrade their automotive tech every few years. The average life cycle of car ownership is likely to be 3-10 years, so this solution allows owners to keep their car up to date with the latest in GPS, augmented reality, auto-braking features, speed control, real-time data sensors, and of course their McDonald’s drive thru payments.
LG G5 – “Friends”
Modular components were also on show for the new LG G5 smartphone. The spec is pretty good, but their head of planning said, “If I’m here to just tell you about these numbers, you will not be excited”. Phone tech moves so quickly that they’ve built this device to be upgrade-able, with the hardware being developed as detachable. LG are making their device more playful and have developed accessories (called “friends”) that can bring the phone to life. These include a camera grip and external battery pack, a Bang & Olufsen speaker attachment, VR headset, camera magnifier and finally a remote controlled robot with a built-in camera. This robot can monitor your home and also play with your pets remotely through movement and a laser!
HTC – Fitness Enabler
We also saw innovation from HTC – not necessarily through their devices, but with their partnerships. Collaborating with Under Armour, they have created the Healthbox suite of products to position themselves as a fitness technology enabler. These included wearable wrist bands and chest bands to monitor things like heart rate, actions and calories burned. In addition, there are scales to monitor weight and body fat percentage. All data of course is then displayed on a dashboard on your HTC device.
360 Degree Video Streaming
Nokia OZO – First Futuristic 360 Degrees Video Streaming Camera
Nokia also showed their OZO 360 degree camera – a snip at $60,000. 5G enables close to real-time streaming of video which can then be attached to drone technology for unique and innovative content creation.
A lot of our vendors have been taking up 360 video now that content can be streamed on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. However, the Managing Director from Manning Gottlieb OMD summed it up perfectly to say that 360 degree video is like the spinning ballerina in a musical box, while Virtual Reality is like being a ballerina.
Virtual Reality was everywhere! Seamus Byrne thinks that this will be a huge year for VR to become mainstream, but the true scale will probably come by the end of next year. There are VR headsets on so many stands – this would have been an amazing novelty even last year but it is clear to me that VR is going to very quickly have huge traction through the the world.
HTC – Vive Gaming Product
HTC showed their Vive gaming product which comes in at a very punchy USD $799, but it did look fantastic! This is $200 more than Oculus Rift, although it will include additional items such as two games and console gaming handsets.
Samsung – Roller Coaster VR Experience
Other than waiting to buy a sandwich, Samsung had the longest queues of the day for their roller coaster VR experience. This featured rows of moving seats with the Gear VR headset to offer the full simulator experience. I didn’t have the patience to wait but it looked like a lot of fun and most people agreed it was really exhilarating.
5G at MWC
Nokia were talking up 5G tech with some great visuals demonstrating the speed and local network capability of devices being able to talk to each other. They showed how latency in video conferencing can be reduced from several seconds on older devices to less than one second delays on 5G devices. This will allow for things like real-time remote surgery to take place with patients. They also had several remote controlled cars looping around in a figure of 8 formation. They were all enabled with 5G sensors meaning they could react off each car’s movements to slow down, or accelerate to avoid collisions.
Korea SK Telecom
We also had Korea’s SK Telecom championing 5G technology, as they are likely to be one of the first companies to role this out.
More from MCW 2016
Sony Xperia Ear – Bluetooth AI
Sony demonstrated the Xperia Ear, a really innovative and beautifully designed Bluetooth headset. However, rather than celebrating a 10+ year old technology, this also has a personal assistant built in. It would be similar to having something like Apple’s Siri, or Amazon’s Alexa in your ear. We’re getting closer and closer to the movie “Her”, where humans are constantly engaging with voice activated machines with AI capability.
Huawei – Portable Charger
The depth of Asian presence was vast across hardware and telco companies with Huawei (now the third largest manufacturer after Samsung and Apple) showcasing their lighter and more portable charger to appeal to those who need to charge on the go.
Oppo – 15 minutes Charger
Oppo went one up on this and unveiled a device which can be fully charged in 15 minutes!
ZTE & Xiaomi
ZTE from China had a very impressive stand and there was a lot of chatter suggesting that they will be the big next smartphone brand. Despite not having a stand, a lot of tech commentators were also talking about the rapid growth of Xiaomi.
Yesterday, I spoke about how I wanted to see technology and solutions that are ready for today and not for 3-5 years’ time. It’s bizarre to think that technology like VR is so very close to being a mainstream thing. Seamus Byrne was saying that we are on the brink of VR hitting scale and being in millions of households, but we still need more quality content to be developed and for the hardware to come down a little on price. As media agencies we can definitely have an influence on one of those factors.
It’s been an excellent couple of days. I have no idea what’s in store for tomorrow, but I’m excited to find out.
Author: Mark Halliday